Any TunnelBear review should start by mentioning that it’s one of the best free VPNs in 2023. Afterward, you can start asking questions:
The answers often depend on the version we’re talking about. Obviously, the premium TunnelBear plan offers more. But is that enough for you to buy it? Continue reading to find out.
Founded in 2011, TunnelBear Inc. was acquired by the cybersecurity giant McAfee in 2018, which means that the Canada-based VPN provider now also falls under the privacy-challenged US jurisdiction. Other than that, there have been few changes in the way TunnelBear looks and works.
One thing is sure, though: this VPN has become much faster than before. However, it still limits what you can do with this service. The shortlist of apps and supported devices only adds to TunnelBear’s niche role in the VPN industry.
|Rank||#45 out of 235 providers|
|Torrenting||Officially not supported|
|Logs||More than minimal data collection|
|Free version or trial||2 GB|
My speed test has shown TunnelBear has become much faster in 2023.
Here are my results without a VPN from a location in Europe:
TunnelBear United Kingdom server speed results
TunnelBear United States speed results
TunnelBear Australia speed results
Despite the atrocious upload, I can say that TunnelBear provides fast download speeds across the globe.
Of course, the company doesn’t state how many of their servers are virtual and how many are actually out there in Australia or another country. Therefore, I’d advise taking these speed test results with a pinch of salt and, most importantly, running your own before buying.
TunnelBear has 1800+ servers in 48+ countries.
|The Americas||US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile|
|Europe||UK, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Finland|
|Africa, the Middle East, and India||India|
|Asia Pacific||Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand|
While the server numbers don’t necessarily correlate with performance, the number of locations certainly does. Compared to the competitors, TunnelBear offers few countries. This means higher latency and potentially slower speeds in areas where the server spread is thin.
The app lists all of the countries for you to choose from, but there’s also an Auto-connect mode, which selects the fastest server (the default option on the Windows client). Using it is okay if you’re not trying to access content available only in a particular location.
TunnelBear is safe to use as long as you have nothing to hide.
After all, it was the first VPN company to initiate an independent self-audit that’s been done three years in a row now. What’s more, TunnelBear continues running independent audits on their code, servers, website, and apps to make sure there are no vulnerabilities present.
Both premium and free versions have great security and privacy features. While it’s a pity that TunnelBear is no longer an “independent VPN” after cybersecurity giant McAffe purchased it, the good news is that all security and privacy features remain intact.
One that I liked particularly was the Always on option. This is a good idea that all VPNs should think about adding.
Also, you can set this service to load automatically as part of your OS startup. That way, you won’t have to rely on remembering to fire up your VPN client before surfing the web.
On second thought, you would expect a bit more from a paid VPN service.
TunnelBear uses top-notch AES-256 encryption – the same you will find in banks and the military. This cipher is so strong that it would take billions of years to crack it using brute force.
When it comes to tunneling protocols, it offers:
The first two are an industry-standard both in terms of speed and security. IKEv2 is available on Windows and iOS only, but you cannot switch between the protocols because TunnelBear assigns them automatically.
GhostBear should be used in countries where internet access is restricted to avoid government-induced blocks. Just have in mind that all obfuscation protocols severely impact the connection speed.
TunnelBear has a kill switch named VigilantBear. It’s effective against leaking sensitive information in case the VPN connection drops.
If that happens, VigilantBear will shut down your internet connection completely. Otherwise, your IP address and location might be exposed, increasing the risk of getting hacked or fined for torrenting.
Unfortunately, it’s not available on iOS devices yet. Users of other platforms can toggle the kill switch on and off from the client’s Security Settings.
I recommend pairing VigilantBear with loading TunnelBear when your device starts. This way, you won’t forget to turn it on before going online.
During the TunnelBear leak test, I found no DNS or WebRTC (IPv6) leaks that could reveal your identity. It means that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has no idea of what sites you visit when the VPN is on.
I recommend running both IP and DNS leak tests for yourself to make sure your connection is protected. You can easily find different tests by searching for “dns leak test” and “ip leak test.”
Canada is where TunnelBear VPN is based, and that’s not great because this country belongs to the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. What’s more, it is owned by McAfee, which is under US jurisdiction.
Both countries are known for tough anti-piracy laws and make VPN subject to data retention policies.
Besides, TunnelBear no longer owns all its servers. This means that it cannot have 100% control over the user’s data being transferred or even stored.
Also, it logs a bit more than it actually needs to. If a VPN provider has truly zero logs, the government won’t be able to find anything about you.
While claiming to operate under a strict no-logs policy, TunnelBear is clearly logging more than the needed minimum.
Some examples of what this VPN collects:
Luckily, logs don’t include your IP, DNS queries, or activity.
As per TunnelBear’s logging policy, your personal data will be provided to authorities “in the event TunnelBear is served with a valid subpoena, warrant, or another legal document.”
Secondly, TunnelBear “may send data to third-party service providers” for “understanding website analytics” – which could mean almost anything.
TunnelBear allows anonymous payment with Bitcoin, but it doesn’t fully support anonymous purchasing. That’s because your email address will be your login name, so it cannot be a throwaway account.
In any case, there are still quite a few services that don’t allow anonymous payments with gift cards or cryptocurrencies, so this VPN is doing quite a good job in this department.
That’s very likely because this service has apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. In addition, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera are available. Chrome users can also download TunnelBear Blocker, which attacks ads and tracking.
Unfortunately, there’s no support for a router or any other device, so you won’t be able to make TunnelBear your home VPN, even though it allows five simultaneous connections.
The apps are pretty similar across the platforms, offering an easy-to-use and simple interface. Most buttons and settings have clear descriptions so that even novice computer users would know how to use them.
TunnelBear apps for Windows and macOS are pretty similar, save for the Settings. Both offer switching TCP Override, VigilantBear, GhostBear, and managing Trusted Networks. All these can be toggled by pressing the cogwheel on the top left.
The more confusing setting, found General tab, is TCP Override. This option, available on the Mac and Windows apps, forces TunnelBear to only use the TCP protocol instead of UDP, which is slower but more reliable. You should choose it only if you have a good internet connection and if turning the VPN on makes your streams choppy or your download times slow.
Free version users will also be getting notifications about their bandwidth situation, with a friendly reminder to upgrade and roam the internet wilderness, free as a bird or a bear.
Those who want to connect as fast as possible can simply press the On/Off button at the top left and let the VPN select the best location. Instead of Auto-connect, you can also choose one of the 48+ countries by pressing the drop-down menu icon.
GhostBear, which is another name for Stealth VPN, should be used if you’re unable to connect without it. That would mean that your traffic is recognized as coming from a VPN and thus blocked. GhostBear can be invaluable in countries like China, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, where internet access is restricted.
The Trusted Networks tab allows you to add Wi-Fi networks that you see as safe enough to connect to without a VPN. While our advice is to always have your VPN on, there are situations when the extra speed is worth more. In any case, adding your trusted networks means that should they be unavailable, you will be connecting safely with TunnelBear VPN on.
Most importantly, both macOS and Windows apps are as secure as one another. The only key difference is that the macOS version doesn’t have the IKEv2 protocol.
Their Android app is as secure as the desktop versions, having the same encryption, protocols, and other features.
In fact, it even has SplitBear – a split tunneling option that is unavailable on desktop. SplitBear allows you to choose which apps will use a VPN connection. Therefore, you can torrent safely while browsing freely at full speed.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear for iOS is lackluster. The only two things you can do is add Trusted Networks and toggle Bear Sounds. Pathetic.
Without a kill switch (VigilantBear), your IP address will be exposed in case of a VPN failure, and TunnelBear is prone to that. Also, without a stealth protocol (GhostBear), you most likely won’t be able to browse freely in China and other countries where internet access is restricted.
TunnelBear offers three browser extensions and ad Blocker, which allegedly stops ads and tracking. However, it’s available on Chrome only and has been updated in 2018. Maybe that’s why it blocked the TunnelBear website for me.
The situation with browser extensions is better. The Firefox and Chrome TunnelBear versions were updated in January 2021. Sadly, the Opera add-on dates back to January 2019.
Learning how to use TunnelBear browser extensions is easy. The main window lets you do five things:
When the VPN is on, you will see a bear climb out of the tunnel and a straight line, drawn from your location to your destination. Contrary to real life, as long as you can see a bear, you’re safe.
Unfortunately, there are virtually no settings to tweak or features to turn on save for some keyboard shortcuts. What is more, there’s no Auto option for selecting the fastest server, which might be in another country the next time you need to use a proxy.
But the most concerning thing is the list of dubious permissions that TunnelBear extensions require. Reading and changing all your data on the websites you visit and managing your extensions are only just a few of them.
These are the TunnelBear VPN pricing plans:
TunnelBear accepts credit cards and Bitcoins. There used to be a PayPal option, and I hope it will return someday, like a Jedi.
One negative touch about the pricing is that TunnelBear doesn’t have a money-back guarantee. However, it’s still possible to get a refund. To do so, contact customer support – they evaluate each case separately and may transfer back the funds.
Nevertheless, you can always try this VPN for free and see if you get what you want. But to be honest, while these prices don’t look high, you can get better VPNs for the same money that unblock Netflix and support P2P.
TunnelBear’s free version is available on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. However, there’s a 2 GB/month data cap, which is not a big amount nowadays.
Just like the full version, it offers 48+ countries to connect to. Most importantly, the speeds are similar too, but since streaming and torrenting are unavailable, one would be hard-pressed to maximize this benefit.
When it comes to Netflix and streaming, TunnelBear is a bad choice. This VPN doesn’t unblock any libraries, be it the US, the UK, or the Australian. However, if it did, users even from distant locations would probably have enough connection speed to stream smoothly in HD or even 4K. At least that’s what I got from Fast.com tests.
Users of free VPN account probably know that 2 GB per month won’t get them too far if you want to watch Netflix. Unfortunately, the Paid version won’t get you much further either – TunnelBear and Netflix simply don’t get along.
When it comes to other streaming platforms, it would be surprising to see TunnelBear unblock BBC iPlayer, Hulu, or Amazon Prime in the near future.
To sum up, I recommend choosing one of our best-ranked streaming VPNs if you want to watch all your favorite movies and TV shows.
TunnelBear is friendly for Kodi. It offers great encryption, protects your IP, and is easy to install and use. The best part is that speeds shouldn’t be of an issue, but you should still test with the free version first.
As for those who want to use Kodi to see what they shouldn’t see, they should consider a VPN in a friendlier jurisdiction than Canada.
TunnelBear doesn’t have an app for Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, this VPN doesn’t unblock Netflix or other streaming platforms. Therefore, there’s no way that pairing TunnelBear with Amazon Fire Stick would work anytime soon.
No, TunnelBear doesn’t support torrenting, and you shouldn’t use this VPN for P2P. While that doesn’t mean that torrenting won’t work for everyone, don’t expect any help on this matter from the provider – they offer no explanation on their decision.
I suggest you look for a more torrent-friendly VPN instead.
TunnelBear has no live chat support. Hopefully, this VPN will reconsider and provide their 20+ million users with proper and fast live support.
In the meantime, the Help page on its website gives you three options:
Responding to your support ticket takes from a few to 24 hours. The TunnelBear support must have gone through some improvements because you can still find older comments with users complaining about slow and useless support.
No, you shouldn’t buy TunnelBear. It may be good for casual users who don’t like streaming and torrenting, but that’s probably the minority of VPN users. Everyone else can easily find a better option at the same price.
Speed is the biggest virtue of TunnelBear. Even though it doesn’t offer the WireGuard protocol, it still manages to perform even when you’re connecting to a server on the other side of the globe.
The security credentials are great. You get military-grade encryption, modern tunneling protocols, and a kill switch. Besides, the leak protection works just fine. Unfortunately, this VPN logs more than the minimum and operates in a privacy-unfriendly jurisdiction.
Power users will miss customization options, especially for the iOS app and browser extensions, that have virtually none of them.
The free TunnelBear version is among the best but severely limits your bandwidth. And because of that, there’s not much point in using it save for trying the VPN out. After all, this service doesn’t have a money-back guarantee.
Luckily, there are some good alternatives to TunnelBear. Their prices are similar, but the number of features and customer support is on the next level. Here are some of my suggestions:
If, for some reason, neither of these three suits your need, you can always find more great VPNs on our “best of” list.
TunnelBear can be good if you don’t need streaming and torrenting. However, there’s plenty of more capable VPNs that you can get for a similar price.
TunnelBear is safe to use. It has military-grade encryption, a reliable kill switch, and no IP or DNS leaks.
This VPN service logs more than a minimum. What’s more, it’s located in Canada, which is a Five Eyes intelligence alliance member.
The free version is a good way to see if you will like the premium option. However, it’s 2 GB/month bandwidth limit means that you won’t be able to do much testing.
2 GBTunnelBear might work in China. It has a stealth protocol named GhostBear that masks your VPN traffic from the ISP and the government. However, I’d recommend choosing something from our top VPNs for China instead.